Phil’s Diner

A Café in the Garden in the heart of Thapae Road

By Heather Allen

The Mail’s eating out column aims at providing reviews of a wide range of restaurants, from fancy to the very local and, of course, a range of nationalities. It happens that the last restaurant reviewed and this one, Phil’s Diner, have certain similarities. Both are run by British men and seek to provide ‘watering holes for ex-pats in Chiang Mai and naturally our Thai friends’. Both aim at and achieve a friendly environment and service, reasonable prices and decent food. Luckily they are in different parts of town.

Phil’s Diner is on Tha Pae Road, while a quite busy street, especially in day time, is lucky enough to offer easy parking. It is opposite the Krung Thai Bank and just a few doors away from the Taste of Heaven.

The menu offers a wide range of food, so large in fact that it would be possible to fill more than this column with details. This is partly because they open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and also offer both western and Thai food. The Thai selection boasts the ‘20 Most Popular Thai Dishes’ (courtesy of a Thai chef, by the way) and not surprisingly these include curries like Massaman, chicken with cashew nuts, hot and sour soup and Pad Thai, all at around 59 to 79 baht a dish.

We made two visits, one for breakfast and a few days before that for dinner. Breakfasts range from the (probably) substantial Big English (at 165 baht), but that is for someone else to write about. I can vouch for the Continental with good coffee at 95 baht, but there are also other sets including American, Israeli and Greek plus sandwiches or simply baguettes, teas and coffees and juices and on occasion specials like imported German ham.

The main menu might be seen as English due to such traditional dishes as Bangers and Mash or roasts, including Chicken and Pork (225 baht), but this is quickly dispelled by the sight of Coq au Vin, Chili con Carne, Hungarian Goulash, Italian Meat Balls in Roasted Tomatoes and a choice of pastas and ten pizzas. Not to mention a full page of salads.

My photographer and I went for a choice of starters: the excellent tomato and basil soup and the highlight of the evening; a substantial plate of spicy prawns (not Thai style) in a rich sauce, just made to go with the garlic bread. In the list of starters you can find French Onion Soup, mushroom dishes and more.

We also tried one of the pizzas, only to find that it was substantial enough to be shared having had a starter (so a dessert had to be sacrificed: next time, they are home made and sounded scrumptious). The other dish chosen was also very filling, one of a wide range of filled baked potatoes. These can be had with anything from beans and bacon to butter and spring onions (95 baht) and are actually two medium sized potatoes ‘welded’ together by the fillings, in my case tuna and mayonnaise.

We tried the house wines, red and white which were fine. Beer and soft drinks are, of course also on offer. To the right of the first section of the restaurant there is a well stocked bar. The entrance on Tha Pae Road opens into an interior dining room, further through is a pretty garden section, which seemed quiet and private. The seats are comfortable, tables a decent size and the decoration pleasant. As shown the prices range widely depending on choice of menu, from 200 baht a head up without alcohol. It is open 8 a.m. to 10p.m. every day on Tha Pae Road, on the left side of the road, heading in the (one way) direction of the traffic.


Prawns with bean sprouts

This was an original Chinese dish from Peking, so there’s more than just the duck; however, over the years has been progressively refined, to make it more of a western item these days. However, it is very flavorsome - just don’t overdo the tomato ketchup!

Ingredients                   Serves 4
Bean sprouts                                125 gm
Prawns, de-shelled, chopped     125 gm
Sunflower oil                              4 tbspns
Garlic, crushed                             1 clove
Red chilli seeded, sliced              1 small
Salt                                                   1 tspn
White vinegar                             2 tbspns
Icing sugar                                   ˝ tbspn
omato ketchup                             1 tbspn
Ginger root, grated fresh             ˝ tspn

Chicken stock                             4 tbspns

Cooking Method

Wash the bean sprouts under cold water, then line a colander with paper towel and shake until dried.

Remove head and tail and shell of prawns, wash, dry on a paper towel and chop roughly into small pieces.

In the wok heat the oil and add the crushed garlic and stir-fry until golden brown, then scoop out the garlic and discard. Add the finely sliced chilli, then the bean sprouts and stir-fry quickly for 30 seconds.

Now add the salt, vinegar, sugar, tomato ketchup, ginger root, chopped prawn and chicken stock. Bring quickly to the boil and leave for one minute.

Serve in a warmed dish with steamed jasmine rice.